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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chimney Creek Hunt Camp 2014

365 days in the making
2100 lbs of gear
300 lbs of food
2 round trip airline tickets
280 hours of vacation time from work
11 cases of beer
20 premium cigars
One quart of moonshine
One bottle of Jack Daniels
One bottle of Irish Cream Whiskey

Packed up and headed north

It's deer camp time baby!

We headed off to deer camp Saturday the 8th.  We left the house in the dark around 6:15 am.
We had a long drive ahead of us. 
Our first stop would be at Dad's cottage in Houghton Lake.  We still had to pack his essentials that he leaves there year around like his tree stand and hunting clothes.

From there it was a quick stop for a breakfast sandwich in Roscommon and then non stop to a little town called Mio.
In Mio we hit the grocery store for water and beer.  No sense in carrying a bunch of extra weight all the way up.  So we loaded up 8 cases of beer and a case of bottled water and then back in the truck.

Next stop would be the gas station in Fairview.  A quick fill up and we were headed for the bush.
From Fairview it is a quick run into a little itty bitty town called Comins.  Just outside of Comins we take a dirt road for about 6 miles.  Then we turn onto a two track that leads deep into the woods. Four and a half miles down the two track and we have arrived at Chimney Creek Hunt Camp.

We arrived at camp around 1 pm.  Of course it rained almost the whole way.  Mixed with snow early but the temps came up just enough to make it rain.

So just like last year we set up camp in the rain.  Not only was it raining but it was cold too.  I think the temp was at 33 degrees.  
Once we had camp set up we needed to get some firewood cut.  We needed only enough for the night.  By then the rain was tapering off a bit.  We cut a load of logs and brought them back to camp and bucked them into rounds and split them.

Soon we had a fire roaring and began to warm up and dry out a bit.  Of course the boxes of beer were opened and we indulged heartily although we were all pretty whipped so our evening didn't last long as we fell happily asleep.

Sunday morning arrived and we awoke still tired.  The thing about deer camp is you never seem to get enough rest.  
We had a big breakfast of eggs, fried potatoes with onions and peppers and sausage links.

First thing on the chore list for the day was to get all of our tree stands and blinds set up.
After a few hours of this it was time to cut more wood.  We needed to cut enough wood to last the entire time we were there.  We did not want to be out and about with a chainsaw once the hunting started.  Of course it began to rain again.

The Lions were playing the Dolphins and we were able to get them on the radio so as we drove the two tracks searching for dead trees to cut we listened to the Lions beat the Dolphins.  A close game!
We hauled 4 truckloads of wood this year.

We finished cutting wood late into the night.  The last load was cut into rounds by lantern light.
I was flipping exhausted.  We had dinner ( I think it was pork chops and baked potatoes) and a few beers and it was lights out.  Sore, wet and tired I welcomed the sleeping bag.

This year we decided not to sleep with the heat on in the camper.  It just seemed to get too hot.  We have used the same heater for a few years now but this year it was too much so we just shut it off at night.  It would turn out to be the one of the coldest seasons yet as we would soon find out.

Monday morning we began our hunting.  The alarm went off at 4:20 am and as I reached my arm out of the warm sleeping bag (covered in 4 blankets as well) I felt the bite of the cold air in the camper.  I sleep next to the stove (as I do most of the cooking) and I always have the coffee pot prepped the night before so I can just reach out, fumble around for the lighter and light the burner.
Snapping my arm back into the warmth of my blankets before frostbite set in I wondered if our choice of "no heat" was a good idea.

Soon the coffee pot began to percolate.  If you have ever used a percolating coffee pot you know how long it takes to make a pot of coffee.  Especially when the water in the pot has been sitting there all night in 30 degree temps.  It damn near froze in the pot.  Anyways what seemed like an hour later the pot began to thump.  Ba- dump-Ba-dump.  I lay there in my bunk, head covered in blankets with only a small breathing hole for fresh air listening to the pot sing its tune and knowing that in a few minutes I would have to emerge from my cocoon and shut the pot off and head outside to rid myself of the prior evening's beer.  It was going to be cold.

Slowly I pulled the covers back and in the dim light created by the stove burner I could see my breath billowing into the blackness beyond.  
"Damn", I muttered aloud, "It's freaking freezing."

"Sissy", I hear from the other end of the camper.

"Bite me", I fire back and slip into my still wet boots from the day before.

Oh man are these things cold.  I light the lantern which illuminates the camper and notice that everyone else has their head under the blankets too.  ''Sissy my ass ", I think to myself.
Next I fire up the heater and as it begins to glow I head outside in nothing more than my long underwear and a t-shirt.

It is crisp and it is cold!  I look up into the brightly lit sky and marvel at how bright the moon and stars are up here in the north country.  We miss so much of this down state with our pollution clouds.

Relieved, I head back into the camper which is now warming up quick.  Standing in front of the heater I pull my shirt open and allow the rising heat from the burner to float up inside my shirt.  

I dig my slippers out and toss the cold wet boots aside.  
I grab two coffee mugs and fill them with piping hot coffee.  I clear some clothes off the seat next to the table and settle in with my coffee.  The only sound is the heater humming softly and soon the sounds of the three other hunters fill the camper again.  A snore hear, a fart there, a bubbling whisper thing my brother does which is not quite a snore but not quite regular breathing either.

Soon Dad rolls over and sits up.  He looks tired.  Grabbing his mug he sips the hot life inside of the cup.  He smiles, shakes his head and rubs his arms with his hands as if he is cold.

"Hey it was your idea to sleep without the heat", I remind him.

"I slept fine", he mutters.

For the next 7 days this scenario would be repeated.  
Except it got colder and colder and soon every morning I was shuffling through the snow in my slippers which have zero traction in the snow.  I can attest to this by my return from the makeshift outhouse one morning. 

The outhouse sits up behind the camp and to get there you have to go up this small hill.  
It has a gentle slope and is only about 5 foot higher than camp area but when it is covered in a few inches of snow and you are wearing flat, rubber bottomed slippers it can be treacherous, as my backside found out when it made contact with the ground while I was trying to navigate the slope on my return trip one cold dark morning.

We seen a lot of deer, well I did anyways.  Dad saw a few and Bill and Joe saw even less but all in all it was a successful trip.  On Tuesday Dad and I both arrowed a doe with our bows and we had deer to hang on the pole.  On Wednesday I arrowed a 5 point buck and added him to the pole.

I almost didn't get him.  We have antler point restrictions in the area we hunt.  If you have a combination deer license, which I did, you are allowed to shoot two bucks.  One must have at least three antler points on one side and the other must have a least four antler points on one side.

This deer came from behind me and I was watching him walk down a game trail I clearly Identified him as a 4 point buck.  Two points on each side.  Not a shooter, so I kinda ignored him and then he made a fatal mistake of turning and walking right under my tree.  I mean right under it.  As he walked by I looked down at his rack and saw that one side had a little brow tine and that made three points on one side.  Of course I thought I was screwed because he was right under me, 4 feet away from the bottom of my ladder stand.  I figured he would smell me or see me before I could get the bow up and ready for a shot but as fate would have it he walked out in front of me and turned sideways at 15 feet.
The rest is in the freezer.

Morning hunts were our best.  We did not see many deer at all in the evening which is unusual.  We archery hunted all week long and between the four of us we had roughly 30 deer sightings.  The hunting was good.  Scrapes and rubs were everywhere although we did not see any larger bucks.

It snowed almost non-stop the entire time.  We would wake up to an inch of fresh snow, which made for excellent hunting, and during the day the sun would pop out for just a few minutes and melt most of it.  Then we would get some heavy snow showers and it would drop a half inch of snow in a matter of 20 minutes.  
The wind was not doing us any favors however.  It would be steady in the morning and by 10 am it would begin shift and swirl.  It was usually that way in the evenings as well.  The first 3 days of hunting were the best as the winds were steady in one direction.  We seen the most deer those days.  Once the weather changed and the wind shifted the hunting went stagnant with very limited sightings.  The temperatures ranged from lows around 14 degrees to average highs around 28-30 although one day it hit 40.

I try to stay as scent free as possible but when your in the bush for ten days without running water it is tough to do.  Cooking in the camper and standing around a campfire every night do not help the situation.  I keep my outer gear in a plastic tote in the back of the truck and every morning I get dressed outside and every evening I take it off and put it back in the tote with scent control items.  It helped a little.  The worse part was that they got wet and without anyplace to dry them, they froze.  Every morning I would put on partially frozen gear.  We did have one day where the sun came out for a few hours and it warmed up to around 40 and I was able to hang them in the sunshine which dried them out about 95%.  

One day we had rain move in and it started just as we were getting ready for our afternoon hunt.  It came down hard.  My brother Bill had already left for his stand but the rest of us said no way.  We would get soaked sitting out there in the downpour.  With no way to dry our clothes out we were stuck.  So we went for a ride and on the way back to camp we stopped by Bill's hunting spot and Dad walked up to get him so we could drive into town to the local campground where we could take a shower for a few dollars.  That was the only shower we had in those ten days.  We stopped by the store and replenished our beer supplies as well.

Rifle season started on Saturday the 15th and we were all pretty excited.  Unfortunately it would turn out to be a bust.  I did have a deer come in but it was dark and I could not see if he had the appropriate antler points to fill my second tag so I had to let him walk away even though he stood right in front of me making a scrape.  It just wasn't ethical to make the shot.
I had 4 does walk behind me that morning as well but I was holding out for a buck so I passed.  I made a mental note that I would shoot one if it walked by the next day.  They never did...nothing did.
We got skunked during the gun part of our trip.  Joe didn't see a thing and Bill saw one but couldn't get a shot and the others he seen were like me...in the dark.

All in all we had fun.  Great food such as pork chops, sirloin steaks, deep fried chicken wings and gizzards, venison stew with biscuits, bluegill fillets, smelt and even fried shrimp!  Breakfasts were biscuits and gravy with sausage patties and eggs with fried potatoes and sausage links.  We ate a bunch of English muffins with sausage egg and cheese on them.  Just like the ones you can get at Rotten Ronnie's! (McDonalds)

We managed to plow through 11 boxes of beer and a bottle of Irish cream whiskey which was warm and welcome in our coffee after the morning hunt.   A few hits off the bottle of JD and we all had a sip of the Pecan Pie flavored moonshine.  That stuff was really strong and it only made one appearance the entire time.  

Our annual chimney log fire was a huge success this year as you will see by the video below.

If you've never tried this style of hunting or even camping you should give it a go.  It is a ton of work and not for the feint of heart.  Everything you do in the bush requires work.  Cooking dinner over the fire, washing dishes in the creek, even making coffee takes effort that most folks aren't used to.
No running water, no electricity, no cell phones.  Truly unplugged!

Then add in a 2 mile hike everyday back and forth to your hunting stand, dragging deer, cutting and splitting firewood not to mention hauling it out of the woods in 6 foot lengths.  Building a fire everyday after the evening hunt and waking up at 4:20 am everyday.  You can burn some serious calories!  With as much food as I ate and as many beers as I drank you would have never thought that I would actually lose weight at deer camp-but I did!  That is probably a good thing.

I read a lot while I'm in my stand and this year I finished a book titled "The Son" by Philipp Meyer.
At 561 pages it is a story about a family in 1832 Texas which had just declared independence from Mexico.  The Comanche Indians were still raiding and killing settlers and war with Mexico loomed on.  The story is about one son who was kidnapped by the Comanches and his fight for life and how he grew up and had children of his own and their impact upon the wild Texas frontier from 1832 all the way through the 1980s.  I highly recommend this book.  

Of course the older we get, especially Dad, the harder it gets.  This year was a testament to that as we fought for everything we had at camp.
I am on a mission to procure a small piece of property somewhere up north that adjoins state or federal land where I can begin building a cabin.  I love roughing it but there is a cost on the body and we won't always be able to pay the toll.  

Enjoy the pics and videos!

Daytime shot of camp

Some snow shots

Inside the camper..it was wee bit crowded

Our banner for this year

Me cooking breakfast while Jr. looks on.

Left to right
Bill Jr. Bill Sr. Me

Jr., Joe, Me

Dad and Joe

A video from my hunting stand

Our annual Chimney log fire.  This is how we got our camp name.  Every year we burn a hollowed out log which we call a chimney and we camp next to a creek.  Hence the name Chimney Creek Hunt Club

A video of the chimney

Here are some close ups of the flames

That is all I have.  Hope you enjoyed it


1 comment:

  1. WOW! That was some trip. It's amazing how organized you are. I hope your compadres know how lucky they are to have you pulling it all together. Although you don't show it, is that a stand-alone camper that you pull behind the truck - I'm assuming it is. And, you really do use space well!! hahaha

    Though this will sound weird, being I'm a "girl" (gag me now) (hahahaha) I always wanted to go hunting with my dad and his crew - BUT, girls weren't allowed. Now, that being said, you bring along an outhouse - how civilized - it beats dropping in the bush and freezing one's butt (and attachments) off.

    My dad was a real outdoorsman to which end we all groaned when summer came and camping seasons started because we went were no sane person ventured - hence knowing all about the butt-to-bush experience. Yup, good times were had once you got past that part. The wild ospreys, the pristine wilderness - can't beat Mother Nature's resort.

    Anyway - I really envy you and your group - what an experience, what memories - unplugged and real! Nothing better than that.

    Cheers, Jenny


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